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Princeton's Tal Fortgang and the Journey From Jewishness, to Whiteness, and Then White Racism


Whiteness is myopic. Whiteness is also a type of selective remembering and forgetting. Whiteness allows its owners and subscribers to cherry-pick from history in order to fulfill a hard times myth of exclusive and extreme white ethnic struggle, or to deny that they, because their people had “difficulties” in America, are somehow now incapable of being “racist”.

The converts—the Poles, Russians, Italians, Slavs, Jews, and others—whose people have only recently crossed over in 20th century America from being “quasi white” to “fully white”, are among the most visceral and impassioned defenders of Whiteness.

They are like the religious convert prone to fundamentalist zealotry, strapping a bomb on their bodies, railing against the “non-believer” or “apostate” in order to prove that he or she is the truest of the true believers.

Being late to a party often means that one tends to drink a bit too much in order to catch up with the guests who arrived either early or on time. Religion and racial identity often follow the same guidelines.

The person whose people are one or two or even three generations removed from crossing over from nebulous Whiteness to those now considered “normal” and “regular” white people often find themselves working hard to be more “White” than any other “white” person.

My relatives, by blood, kinship, or adopted, always warned me to watch out for a white person who just figured out that they are in fact “White”. Why? Because people like that are very dangerous and treacherous. Their race pride, based on nothing but a new found discovery that they too are now able to put their foot on a black or brown person’s throat (or even those who they view as not "really white") is so tempting to them—few can resist its power.

Whiteness can be a slippery possession. It is also a performance where some try to outdo their peers in a day-to-day competition along the colorline, fighting to protect and earn White Privilege.

Princeton University’s Right-wing angry white male wunderkind Tal Fortgang has received much attention this week for his spirited essay in defense of White Privilege.

Tal Fortgang is a beneficiary of fortuitous timing: the last few weeks have seen a storm of white folks behaving badly; he is the newest star of the moment.

Cliven Bundy is the racist hillbilly. Donald Sterling is the racist multimillionaire caught on tape disparaging African-Americans while speaking to his black-Hispanic mistress. Tal Fortgang is the privileged young white man straight out of central casting who answered a call for a racist arrogant country club type.

For Tal Fortgang, White Privilege is something earned and magically transmitted to him like the Divine Right of (White) Kings through blood by the hard work of his ancestors (and of course black and brown people do not have this legacy). Thus, Fortgang is a living version of a popular truism: he was born on the 3rd base of life and honestly believes that he hit a home run…and was denied the score by a group of cheating black and brown umpires.

The origins of Tal Fortgang’s success in gaining the national media’s attention ought not to be mysterious.

He is a product of a Right-wing media machine that is looking for a fresh face. There is nothing organic or spontaneous about Tal Fortgang’s essay in the Right-wing rag “The Princeton Tory”. He is a mercenary, propped up by his connections, who will use him to throw up flack and chaff as an agent of the Right-wing noise machine. A high volume of fire is the Right-wing’s preferred strategy—even if they rarely hit their targets. But as Stalin observed, “quantity has a quality all its own”.